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Nov 18, 2006 10:10 PM

A few, or maybe more than a few, questions from an SF hound...(about St John; best Greek; Malabar Junction; pre-theatre, etc?)

Will be spending a few days in London over the holidays: first time for both hubby and me...and have started trying to seriously research our eating choices while there. Will be staying in Bloomsbury, if that helps, though we are willing to move around.

Have some great leads already, but had a few specific questions, if anyone could help me:

First, I am thinking about St John. The bone marrows look so wonderful, and hubby and I are both into meat....and yes, it is pricy, but not as astronomical as I've been hearing rumors London restaurants can be. (Perhaps I've become too used to high restaurant prices here at home).

First, just the curious question: the website has a "V" by the few vegetarian dishes: and this includes "Crispy Pig's Skin & Dandelion": Is this an error, or is 'Pig's Skin' a British code words for something else? But my second, and more important question: they are on Open Table, but when I try and make a reservation they are telling me I am making too far in advance. Can't find anything on the website as to how far in advance I can make a reservation: does anyone know? How much in advance is a reservation really needed? (I was actually debating going there for New Year's Eve...)

Secondly, two types of (good) food that are hard to find near our house in SF include Greek and South Indian. For the former, hubby loves Greek, and Greek seafood in particular: any ideas where to take him? For South Indian, I've seen discussion of Malabar Junction, and it is very close to our hotel: any updates and (if you like it) suggestions on what to order?

And one more: I can only do one upscale meal, because I blew my budget to make hubby happy and take him to Spamalot. On that note, where would you recommend for a pre-theatre dinner near the Palace that would make hubby's evening complete: considering that he likes a drink before dinner, and tends to prefer comfort over style or pretentiousness, and quality above all? (but that would likely be open on New Year's Day night, which is the night of the play. Come to think of it, NYD is a Monday this (next)year: will that make my search problematic?

Thanks so much!


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  1. South Indian: Woodland South Indian Vegetarian Restaurant on Panton Street between Haymarket and Wardour, but you don't sound like vegetarians.
    Soho Spice Indian on the edge of Soho (5 blocks north of Piccadilly Circus on Wardour serves a mix of Indian styles.

    Not a lot to pick from near the Palace; it is close to Chinatown where one of the closest and best is Y Ming Chinese Restaurant across Shaftesbury from the Chinatown entrance gate, one block north on Greek street. Comfortable and relatively quiet (Northern Chinese).
    Also a possibility close to the Palace: Belgo Centraal, which has a gimicky monastic refectory theme, but serves quite good hearty Belgian specialties (plenty for meat eaters here). Without reservations, you'll probably end up in the beer hall, but there is a classy restaurant section as well. Mussels are a specialty, as are great fries (invented by the Belgians) and many fine Belgian beers (full bar available). Early bird specials also. It's at 50 Earlham Street. which is 1 block north of the Covent Garden Tube station at the intersection of Neal and Shelton. That may sound complicated, but good directions are a necessity in this part of London because of many short streets which appear and disappear and may be missing from some maps.

    3 Replies
    1. re: appetite4life

      Susan -- you'd probably be disappointed with Belgo. Great for the beer selection, but the food is very uneven in execution in our experience.

      1. re: Joan Kureczka

        thanks for the feedback, Joan. Belgian would be nice if we could fine a really good spot. Good Chinese is of course not difficult to find at home, though I am certainly not adverse to doing comparisons.

      2. re: appetite4life

        Thanks...just to clarify: while I am certainly not a vegetarian, I would be happy to eat at a vegetarian South Indian restaurant...

      3. The only Greek restaurant worth eating in in London is The Real Greek in Hoxton.

        2 Replies
        1. re: Tony Finch

          thanks! Is it worth eating at if I only have four nights in London? (as opposed to being just good for London?). what do you like there?

          1. re: susancinsf

            Personally I wouldn't bother with The Real Greek if you only have four nights in London. So, therefore, I wouldn't bother with a Greek restaurant at all. It's just that you mentioned it.....

        2. susan, i can't help you with new years day reservations. but i can help you with keralan cuisine.

          forget malabar junction or any of the rasa samudras. the best keralan cuisine these days is at quilon, on buckingham palace gate. go for lunch (its cheaper) and try the thali.

          if your husband is willing to swap over to lebanese, there are quite a few superb places to try - these days maroush, on beauchamp place (near harrods), is at the top of its form.

          bet of luck.

          1 Reply
          1. re: howler

            Thanks for the suggestions! I checked out Maroush's menu on line, and it does look good (lamb's tongue, yumm!). and being close to Harrods....I think hubby might enjoy an upscale Lebanese place: I've been to some in the Middle East, but hubby wasn't along on that trip, and here is SF with the exception of one or two fusion places the Lebanese food here is mostly low-end and, in my opinion, fairly one-dimensional...

            I am curious though: is Maroush as clubby/sceney as the website tries to warn me it is not?


            One thought: we are going to be coming from ten days in Tunisia, and while I know there are big differences, there do appear to be overlaps in Lebanese and Tunisian food (I noticed at least one tangine on the menu at Maroush, and spicy sausage. and then all that lamb. Wonder if we will be tired of lamb...though I suppose if we have had enough lamb at that point that we won't want Greek either....). A quick google reveals that both have berber and obviously Arabic influences. may be interesting to contrast/compare.

          2. maroush is relaxed and friendly - you can eat downstairs on a bar stool or more formally upstairs - personally, i'd eat downstairs. i've never noticed a tagine at maroush - are you sure they serve it a beauchamp place? there's a bunch of maroushes on edgware road that do get touristy - thats probably their shtick.

            anyway, good lebanese food is one of londons best dining experiences - for quality and value for money. i eat lebanese out much much more than i do what passes for indian cuisine here. on that subject, avoid woodlands, rasa samudra etc with extreme prejudice.

            1. Susan,

              We had dinner at St. John last month. It was a great meal however I wouldn't rely on open table. Contact the restaurant direct. My BF used Open Table for our res. All that came up was 6PM so he took it. We ended up in a nearly empty restaurant with a staff that wasn't fully prepared to start service.

              You can read my review here: